Understanding the Live MOS Sensor

February 26, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Digital SLR Cameras, PMA Show 2006 | 3 Comments |

PMA 2006: Olympus have provided a technical explanation of how the new Live MOS Sensor in the Olympus E-330 and Panasonic DMC-L1 DSLRs actually works.

Olympus Press Release

The Live MOS Sensor offers image quality comparable to an Full Frame Transfer (FFT) CCD sensor with the low power requirements of a CMOS sensor, and is noteworthy for its high-quality imaging capabilities over an extended period of time. Simplified circuitry that reduces the distance from each photodiode to its corresponding on-chip microlens assures excellent sensitivity and image quality even when light strikes it at a high angle of incidence.

1. Resolution: 7.5 megapixels, with excellent low-light performance characteristics.
2. Grain: low-noise technologies assure reduced graininess.
3. Tonal range: Simplification of the transfer register and other circuitry results in a large photodiode surface area for FFT-CCD-level sensitivity and responsiveness.
4. Low power consumption: Power requirements are approximately half those of FFT-CCD sensors.
5. High speed: Simple circuit structure contributes to faster processing overall.

Redesigned Sensor Elements with Greater Photosensitive Surface Area
Photosensitive area accounts for 30% of sensor element surface (comparable to CCDs). The Live MOS Sensor takes advantage of the simplified circuit requirements and thinner layer structure of NMOS type sensors to offer a larger photosensitive surface area. In addition, circuit technology refinements were made to boost light utilisation efficiency and improve image quality.

A new transfer mechanism for photodiode signal readout enabled us to reduce the number of circuit paths to two, the same as in a CCD sensor, and thereby minimise the surface area that is unresponsive to light. By effectively enlarging the photosensitive surface area and enabling it to capture light that was previously lost, we were able to achieve both high sensitivity and superior image quality. We also developed a new low-noise photodiode signal amplification circuit to further improve sensitivity.

Low-Light Environments
A dedicated processing technology developed for use in 5V (design specifications: 2.9V) low-voltage systems is employed to significantly reduce noise. Operating signal noise was also considered, and the sensor photodiodes were deeply embedded in silicon to isolate them from noise-causing elements on the chip surface. As a result, images are clearer, and the graininess and white noise that often appear when shooting in low light are suppressed. Thanks to this technology, low-light performance is improved overall, and a clear image can be obtained even when shooting in very dim light.

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#1 nick in japan

Patiently awaiting a side-by-side Canon 10d/20D comparison chart, until then, well, words are cheap! Lies abound, we need proof!

4:27 am - Monday, February 27, 2006

#2 Zoltan


Just make sure you are not comparing for the sake of comparison. My stance is if you find a camera that seems right for you from a handling/ergonomics etc. point of view, then the right way to judge if it really is the camera for you is to download a couple of full-res samples (or snap a few shots in best-quality mode if you can get your hands on a copy in your local camera shop), then print them @ 300ppi and see if the resulting images live up to your "internal" standards.

If they do, then no comparison is really needed. After all, it's ultimately you who the images must appeal to. If they don't, then it doesn't matter how many other cameras they beat on the charts. For example, the Canons you mention tend to do well on comparison charts, but if I look at Canon's own 30D sample portrait, the skin tones alone are enough reason for me to steer clear of that camera. You might have your own set of standards, of course.

8:23 am - Monday, February 27, 2006

#3 nick in japan

Zoltan, thanks for the comments! I presently use the 10 and 20D, F828 and all the other F models by Sony, with LX-1 back-up, I am very happy with what I use, knowing their limitations well. I am a camera collector and have lottsa stuff, always interested in new and better systems. I believe reviews up to a point, factoring in every tid-bit of feedback I can, before I would invest in a different system. My ramblings in this case are the result of reading all the remarks by the manufacturer that tend to tell a story of near spiritial superiority of their product, and I'm afraid alot of folks take advertisements as truth, when in fact, they exagerate to the point of blatant lies.
I , personally, love comparison charts, as a tool only, gotta start somewhere!
A comparison chart will eliminate a consideration real fast if it isnt up to the 10D/20D performance!

9:50 am - Monday, February 27, 2006